|December 8, 2013|
The Fields Medals: Canadian Content
MADRID, August 22, 2006 - The major event of the mathematical world began today in Madrid with the much awaited announcement of the Fields medal winners. This takes place at the quadrennial International Congress of Mathematicians of the IMU (International Mathematical Union).
These prizes are often referred to as "the Nobel prize of mathematics", but whereas the announcement of the Nobel prizes is usually accompanied by a note that the prizes are named after Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, it is less well known that the Fields medals take their name from John Charles Fields (1863-1932), mathematician, native of Hamilton, Professor at the University of Toronto, who was responsible for bringing the International Congress to Toronto in 1924, marking the first time this event had been held in Canada. Fields generously endowed the medals, and set a criterion that distinguishes them from the Nobel prizes: that the awardee be a person with great potential for future achievement, as well as significant recent accomplishments.
This year, Canada has particular reason to celebrate the awards, as the world learned today that the prize selection committee, whose identity is secret until the winners are announced, includes the distinguished Canadian mathematician Donald Dawson, a former director of the Fields Institute (1996-2000). Musing on the task of the committee, Don echoed John Ball, President of the IMU, "There are so many exciting recent developments in mathematics that it is a difficult but important task to pick the most exceptional. We were guided by the three-fold charge to the committee: select at least two and preferably four winners; observe the strict age limit (under 40 on January 1, 2006), and strive to represent the diversity of mathematics. This year's winners, Andrei Okounkov (mathematical physics, USA), Gregori Perelman (topology, Russia), Terance Tao (analysis, USA) and Wendelin Werner (probability, France) are not only outstanding, but form an outstandingly diverse group. It was an honour to serve on this committee."
Barbara Keyfitz, current director of the Fields Institute, said, "When the Institute was formed in 1992, the name Fields was chosen to honour a visionary mathematician who worked hard to raise the sights of the mathematics community in Canada, and to increase communication among mathematicians worldwide. The Fields Institute is sometimes, mistakenly, given credit for the medal itself. The medal is, and will remain, an international prize awarded by the International Mathematical Union. But along with mathematicians worldwide we join in celebrating the achievements of the winners and look forward to welcoming them - or welcoming them back - to the Fields Institute. And we salute our colleague Don Dawson for his role in the selection and for the recognition by the international community that he is a worthy judge of the best young talent in the world."
Canadian representation among the speakers at the 2006 ICM is also particularly strong this year, with six Canadians among about 190 invited speakers. They are Henri Darmon (McGill), François Lalonde (Université de Montréal), Grigory Mikhalkin (Toronto), Michael Shub (Toronto), Godfried Toussaint (McGill) and Vinayak Vatsal (UBC).
The Fields Institute, located in Toronto, is recognized as one of the world's leading independent mathematical research institutions. With a wide array of pure, applied, industrial, financial and educational programs, The Fields Institute attracts over 1,000 visitors annually from every corner of the globe, to collaborate on leading-edge research programs in the mathematical sciences. The Field's Institute is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, seven principal sponsoring universities, seven affiliate universities and several corporate sponsors. See www.fields.utoronto.ca for further details.